Yoga vs. Pilates: Which One Is Ideal For You?

Saad Rana Jul 17 2014

There are innumerable fitness programs being followed daily by scores of people around the world. What works for them, however, may not necessarily appeal to you. In this edition of exercise face-off, we’re going to pit two major fitness giants against one another: Yoga and Pilates. We’re psyched to find out which one stands out, so let’s start this evaluation right away!


Yoga is a technique adopted from ancient India. It aims to enhance physical fitness, mental well-being, and emotional stability through unique asanas (yoga poses), which include stretching exercises, strength-building moves, deep breathing and meditation. The key philosophy behind yoga rests on the unification and harmonization of the physical and spiritual elements of one’s being.
Modern yoga practices are based on the teachings of thousands of years of instruction. Variations such as Bikram yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Vinyasa yoga and Power yoga are relatively recent additions to the yoga family. The most basic and long standing yoga form is Hatha Yoga, which is recommended for all yoga beginners. Hatha yoga combines yoga postures (asanas) with unique deep breathing techniques (pranayama), and helps the beginner adapt to the practice of yoga before he/she take the leap to more advanced forms.
Asanas have two chief objectives: To practice meditation, the individual must be comfortable with assuming and holding one posture for a considerable duration of time; and to bring vitality and energy to the mind and body by tapping into the body’s internal channels of energy. Combined with deep breathing techniques, these yoga asanas enhance flexibility, stamina, mental alertness and self-awareness.


The Pilates movement was popularized as a way to develop the body’s core for better posture, balance and flexibility. Joseph Pilates, the creator of this fitness regime, focused on targeting several muscle groups to achieve low-impact flexibility, muscle strength and endurance. A regular Pilate’s workout engages the lower back muscles, hip muscles, thigh muscles, and abdominal muscles, among others. It sounds quite intense doesn’t it? That’s because the exercise was actually designed for athletes, to be used as a conditioning tool. This does not mean that beginners or non-athletes cannot participate in the Pilates movement. As is the case with yoga, there are several variations of Pilates (ranging from mild to downright rigorous). There’s something out there for everyone.

The 6 Essential Pilates Principles

Joseph Pilates based his exercises on six key principles, which are listed below:

  1. Concentration: The way exercises are performed holds greater significance than the exercises themselves.
  2. Control:  The importance of being in control of your body as you perform the exercises.
  3. Centering: To exercise control over the body the core muscles must be developed, strengthened and used efficiently.
  4. Efficiency of movement: Creates flow with the use of appropriate techniques by allowing movement to project outwards from the core.
  5. Precision: Involves focusing on mastering one precise and perfect movement rather than many weak ones.
  6. Breathing: Deep inhalation and exhalation leads to an increase in the intake of oxygen and promotes the circulation of oxygenated blood to every part of the body.

The Verdict

Yoga and Pilates are unique in their own ways, but there is also an overlap in some aspects of the exercises. In their own capacities, both exercises have been used as a means of ameliorating certain injuries. Individuals affected by medical conditions such as depression, joint injuries, fibromyalgia, drug abuse, and even stroke have shown improvement through the regular practice of yoga and/or Pilates.
The strength of yoga lies in its profound effect on emotional stability and mental wellbeing, while Pilates is better known for its ability to enhance physical fitness. Several experts suggest that instead of pitting the two against each other, it would be more fitting to use the two in combination. Pilates can be used to enhance core strength, flexibility and endurance all of which play an essential role in the successful practice of yoga. In turn, yoga can be used to build focus, clarity, and self-awareness, all of which act as excellent ingredients for the practice of Pilates.

Choosing the Right Exercise for You

This of course, is simply a suggestion. The final decision will depend on your personal preferences, your personal trainer’s recommendations, your doctor’s advice, your physical fitness, and health status. You could also attend a session of each and then make a well-informed decision about your ultimate exercise choice.
If you have any prior experience with yoga or Pilates, Team HTV would love to hear your views. Till then, stay happy, stay healthy and take care.

Saad Rana

Saad Rana:

As a current dental student at Ziauddin University, Saad takes an interest in health, fitness and nutrition. He writes articles based on research through on-line publications as well as consulting various doctors and nutrition and fitness experts. When he's not writing for Health TV, you can find him studying, exercising or watching some of his favourite TV shows.